In one of totalbiscuit’s comments on one of thunderf00t’s videos, he stated that he was a Deist. Apparently, some of America’s founding fathers were also Deists. In this article, I want to tackle Deism, because even though Deism isn’t half as bad as organized religion, whether they realize it or not Deism still partially supports theism, and acts as a sort of gateway to religion.
In today’s day and age where organized religion is slowly getting chipped away bit by bit by progressive ideology, many people are finding that they have to find a new belief system to identify with, whether Deism, Agnosticism, Atheism and Antitheism (and probably some new age crap that’s 40 years past its expiration date). Deism seems like the logical choice for people who think belief in a deity is rational, but want to reject religion. After all, “the universe must have had a creator” does seem much more rational than “the universe must have had a creator, therefore Yahweh”.
And you can’t really blame them. Knowing that there is some god out there, even if you don’t actually know anything about the specifics, is comforting because it means that there is a higher authority beyond the senselessness of natural causal determinism, that maybe even if nobody is actively interfering in worldly matters, it would still somehow give everything an arbitrary purpose.
And I hate to do this because in the field of politics progressive Deists and progressive Atheists are more or less allies, but you cannot ignore that Deist apologism is a great resource for organized religion, such as in a debate between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris on the foundations of morality, William Lane Craig repeatedly states that (I’m paraphrasing here) “This debate is not about whether morality is founded in the Christian god, but about whether morality is founded on the supernatural”. And sure, WLC may have been arguing deistically, but he is a Christian apologist. And the next logical step after admitting to Deism is to pick a specific Deity so that the philosophical belief could have some practical effect on your behaviour thus experience. Note: I may be making misconceptions about deism here, but if I can make these misconceptions then so can anyone else, and the point that I’m making still stands.
Let’s say that you’re driving down a unspecified road (life) alongside other cars (society). Even though there has never been any blatant rules (confirmed proven holy scripture) delivered by a specific traffic authority (a god), you believe that there is a traffic authority who may have some traffic laws for you to follow (Deism).
While driving along the road, some of your fellow drivers pull up alongside you and tell you that they have the specific set of traffic laws you’re supposed to follow (Theists), claiming to represent the higher traffic authority. They say that if you drive off the road (death), the Traffic Authority will airlift you to your destination (Perfect fulfillment/heaven) in stealth helicopters, but if you broke traffic laws then the Traffic Authority will airlift you to driver prison (hell). However, you realize that the rules they present are either fallacious or even downright dangerous, and when you press for proof, they always have some excuse such as “I left my ID at home”, or “The Traffic Authority needs to remain hidden to catch the bad drivers” some nonsense like that. (Apologists)
However, when other drivers (People) ask you if you know of any traffic authority, you still tell them that you think there is a traffic authority, how could there not be? After all, there’s traffic, the road seems somewhat functional, therefore there must be a traffic authority managing all this. And maybe you don’t buy into the imposters, but the other drivers think otherwise. Perhaps vindicated by your argument, they see it as justification that a specific set of traffic laws you passed up is correct. And once they buy into those traffic laws, they begin viewing others who follow different traffic laws and those with no discernible traffic laws (Infidels/heretics) as a threat to road safety (religious intolerance), and might possibly decide to ram them off the road (Terrorism/Religious Killings), irrespective of whether they actually were driving dangerously (shitty moral compass based on religion), or whether they themselves were driving recklessly as well, even though nobody had actual proof of being the true representative of the Traffic Authority (Hypocrisy).
Without a specific set of Traffic Laws to satisfy you, you begin speculating what the Traffic Laws could be and you base your driving not on any specific Traffic Laws, but on your own observations and reasoning (scientific research). There are fellow drivers who do the same, but who are actively admitting that while they don’t know of any Traffic Authorities and given the state of the road and the experience of the drivers there probably aren’t any (Atheists). These people also follow a set of traffic laws, but the difference is they will openly amend and discuss their traffic laws based on factual observations which you yourself can verify. Yet they do not claim the authority of a higher Traffic Authority, so even though your behaviour is practically identical to theirs, and you agree with them on too many issues, you do not want to identify as one of them because you cling onto the idea that there has to be a traffic authority, so even though you base your driving style on reality you still say that maybe the Traffic Authority wanted drivers to think for themselves.
So when everyone’s cars break down, the theist drivers dial the specific emergency line they were told to dial in their specific traffic handbook (religious scripture), with no response, and then their leaders say that the Traffic Authority spoke to them personally, and that they had to do two things: 1. Give the leader their only car with a working A/C so the leader could use it as an office to converse with the traffic authorities which he claims to represent (tribute/ sacrifice), and 2. Wait for the Traffic Authority’s stealth repair vehicle (miracle), but in the meantime they could do a spiritual exercise of applying tools and mechanics to the car engines (the only relevant part of scripture), and 3. Ignore the problems and futility of their actions, after all it is the one true Traffic Authority’s recommendations (faith), maybe cars breaking down is better for road safety, maybe the stealth repair vehicle not fixing their cars just means that the Traffic Authority is finally sending helicopters (Rapture) to airlift their cars off this perfect road, there must be some greater purpose.
The atheist drivers on the other hand forego dialing the non-existent emergency line, and proceed straight to investigating the problem and dealing with it based only on facts and educated guesses, even if its a problem with the road which the others are reluctant to admit without some shoehorned explanation such as “the road was only damaged because you drove recklessly, certainly not because the road itself was a non durable piece of crap” because an imperfect road might be evidence against any hypothetical useful Traffic Authority.
You and your fellow Deist drivers however, may as well do anything. You decide to either dial or not dial a possible emergency hotline out of the millions of numbers it could be, or you could try fixing the car yourself, or you could wait around for the stealth repair vehicle and the airlift, either way you could justify it by speculating that what you’re doing is in accordance with the traffic authority’s recommendations, whatever you say they are. And maybe you as a Deist don’t do any of that. Maybe you act openly atheistic, and never let the existence of a traffic authority stop you from being reasonable, but by philosophically supporting the idea of a traffic authority, you are lending credence to the theistic worldview – “but but but I specifically said that I don’t believe in miracles” – you might have forgotten how theists love to cherry pick. After all, even if the idea of a traffic authority does not affect your life in any significant way, telling other people that a traffic authority exists, is in itself an action that could change lives, and not for the better.
Because really, if you’re only a Deist in theory, then you’re probably an Atheist.